Food and Feasting with Strike

Posted on 29 Nov 2023

Robin and Strike’s culinary landscape takes in all London has to offer from high class restaurants to cafes, family dinner to take out in the office, but in the end, what makes a meal enjoyable or not is who you get to share it with.

The Cafe

The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

Cafes are a place of light and warmth for Strike, a place to rest and think and he is a lover of bacon rolls, best enjoyed with a cup of tea the colour of teak and a cigarette. Robin thinks he looks like a bear, hunched over his bacon and egg ciabatta, in the cafe on St Martin’s Lane, (Troubled Blood) and when she picks him up in the Land Rover, he’s often finishing an egg McMuffin. He loves cafe food in London beyond the bacon too. When he interviews Derrick Wilson in the Phoenix cafe in Brixton (The Cuckoo’s Calling), it’s a familiar place from his childhood, still ‘cosy, snug and dingy’ and when Strike’s pie and mash arrives, steaming hot, the two men accord it a moment’s respectful silence.

Sometimes there are other benefits too. It’s his decision to stop for an egg and tomato sandwich at a cafe in St John’s Street which leads to a major breakthrough in the search for what happened to missing doctor, Margot Bamborough (Troubled Blood).

The Take Away

Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith

Late evenings in the office often mean food and the partners and subcontractors opening containers of curry or noodles and rummaging for plates and spoons as they talk through the various cases they are working on. It is over a chicken jalfrezi and whisky in the office, after Strike accidentally gives Robin a black eye (Troubled Blood) that Strike tells Robin about his troubled history with his dad, rock star Jonny Rokeby, and that she is his best friend as well as his business partner. He might have confessed more, if Barclay hadn’t appeared and switched the light on, hungrily eyeing the empty containers.

Being Healthy

The Ink Black Heart, Robert Galbraith

Though she enjoys the takeaways, Robin eats much more healthily than Strike, taking snacks with her on surveillance so she doesn’t fall back on chocolate to keep going. She’s happy to indulge herself sometimes though, like when she escapes a therapy session to enjoy a Cornetto as she wanders around the sun-drenched streets of Deptford (Lethal White).

Strike realises for the good of his health he needs to eat better, and he can cook for himself – he leaves his uncle’s freezer full of curry after a visit to Cornwall. Unfortunately, he finds grilled chicken and steamed vegetables joyless and though he starts ordering fish rather than steak in restaurants, he still arrives at work clutching a bacon roll during the investigation into the Universal Humanitarian Church, diet be damned (The Running Grave); and there’s no sign he ever eats the vegetarian bacon he bought while they picked apart the mysteries of the Knight brothers and the Chiswell family (Lethal White).

High End Dining

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith

Strike often ends up in some of the best restaurants in the capital when meeting clients, sources and occasionally girlfriends. Sometimes he tails errant husbands and wives to smart restaurants where sharp-tongued restaurant critics sit like stylish vultures on uncomfortable modern chairs; sometimes, as when he meets Jasper Chiswell at Pratt’s off St James’s Street, where the ambience is of cosy informality, they dine on English nursery food, plain and unfussy, and none the worse for it.

At Simpsons on the Strand too Strike enjoys traditional fare – a rib of Scottish beef carved with ceremony. No taxis for three months, Strike tells himself sternly, salivating as his plate is heaped with Yorkshire puddings, potatoes and parsnips. His companion, Jerry Waldegrave, there to discuss the unfortunate Owen Quine (The Silkworm) is more concerned with the wine he is enjoying at Strike’s expense.

Money often hampers Strike’s enjoyment of fine dining. When he eats out at La Gavroche with Elin in the end stages of their relationship (Career of Evil) Strike even begrudges the wine’s deliciousness, throwing it back like the cheapest plonk, feeling deeply alienated. The comfortable Mayfair restaurant with its low lighting and its deep carpet feels like a stage set: illusory, ephemeral, though the deliciousness of his fillet of beef does something to assuage his resentment.

He knows the good effects of an excellent meal can have. When he needs favour from Eric Wardle, he takes the policeman to the Cinnamon Club which is, as Wardle says, a ‘bit of a step up from the Bombay Balti’, and Strike gets the information into the death of Kevin Pirbright he is looking for (The Running Grave).

Robin gets to eat in some fine establishments too, though when she dines at the famous Manoir aux Quatr’ Saisons, to celebrate her wedding anniversary with Matthew after they have been arguing, their Michelin starred meal might as well have been polystyrene and dust (Lethal White).

It’s very different when she returns to London after spending weeks eating cheap dehydrated noodles, with small amounts of protein coming in the form of processed meat and cheese, at the UHC’s home base Chapman farm (The Running Grave). She meets Strike’s half-sister, Prudence, at Il Portico and though the conversation is difficult, the pasta is, as Prudence promised, the best in London. A mouthful of the tagliatelle with ragu makes Robin moan with pleasure.

Dinner Parties

The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

Given their busy lives and irregular hours, Strike and Robin don’t give or attend a lot of dinner parties. They don’t seem to miss them much. Eating his birthday dinner, Strike thinks he’d much rather be meeting up with Nick and Ilsa for a curry, rather than sitting through Lucy’s lamb and matchmaking.

While Strike and Robin are investigating the disappearance of Margot Bamborough, Robin’s flatmate Max asks Strike to come to dinner as Max is playing a detective in a new TV series and wants to pick Strike’s brains (Troubled Blood). Robin is concerned about the evening given Strike’s lack of social niceties, and more concerned when her brother asks to stay at the flat with a couple of university friends on the night of the dinner. Strike arrives drunk, having spent the afternoon with Nick, and launches into a fight with Robin’s brother’s friends, bringing up the subject of the assault on Robin before stumbling out into the street to be sick. Robin is outraged and tells Strike exactly what she thinks of him. It’s a turning point in their relationship. For once, Strike realises he’s in the wrong and rather than avoiding the subject, actually apologises the next day. Happily, Max, it turns out, is delighted. He got exactly what he wanted from the evening and the TV series is a success. The food, which Strike pauses mid-rant to praise and Robin gets to sample in calmer circumstances the next day, is also delicious.  

The Company

The Ink Black Heart, Robert Galbraith

It’s clear that what makes a feast for Robin and Strike is the company you keep and away from the pressures of the office, and their own personal challenges, Robin and Strike have some of their most memorable meals together. Following a lead to Skegness gives Cormoran and Robin a chance to sample one of the local fish and chip shops where Robin has Yorkshire caviar – mushy peas – with hers.

Another seaside meal they share lingers long in their minds. During their investigation into the death of Edie Ledwell, they end up sharing dinner at a seaside hotel in Whitstable, and Strike learns, much to his relief, that Robin is not madly in love with the man she met skiing, Hugh Jacks, but rather the opposite. The rest of dinner passes pleasantly, with inconsequential talk, jokes and laughter that might have seemed extraordinary to their fellow diners, had they known how recently Strike and Robin had been sent a bomb.

Strike thinks about that dinner when he finds himself at the seaside again (The Running Grave), and it lingers as a particularly memorable meal in Robin’s mind too, as she pictures Strike laughing opposite her, framed against a window through which she watched the sea turning indigo in the fading light.